Cross-posted at Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

Millions of low-income Americans are being denied an opportunity to register to vote according to a new report released by Project Vote [link] and Demos today. Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007 provides substantial evidence that states are failing to meet their responsibility to provide voter registration services to clients of public assistance agencies. As a result, registrations from public assistance agencies have declined 79 percent between 1995-1996 and 2005-2006, or from 2.6 million to just 550,000.
This situation is contributing to the low rates of registration among low-income Americans. As Project Vote documented in a September 2007 report on registration and voting rates in America, only 60 percent low-income Americans are registered to vote compared to 81 percent for upper-income Americans. If low-income Americans were registered to vote at the same rate as affluent voters, there would have been an additional 7 million voters on the rolls in the 2006 elections.

Project Vote, together with Demos, has been working to help states provide better voter registration services to clients. The results have been significant.

In North Carolina, for example, election officials and agency staff implemented a plan to improve voter registration services at public assistance agencies in late 2006. In the first eight months of 2007, North Carolina’s agencies registered more than 20,000 low-income voters — more than these agencies registered in the preceding two years added together. In the past few months, Colorado and New Mexico have joined Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington on the list of states making improvements to agency-based voter registration.

Some states, however, have not made agency registration a priority despite evidence that they are failing to comply with the NVRA. Project Vote–together with ACORN, Demos and Lawyers’ Committee–is part of litigation in Ohio and has sent notice letters to Arizona, Florida and Missouri, which is a required step before starting litigation.

For information on Project Vote’s efforts to help states comply with the NVRA’s public agency registration requirements, please visit our NVRA Implementation Project homepage.